The Kaduna State High Court yesterday granted the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky and his wife, Zeenat, permission to travel to an Indian hospital for medical treatment.
The ruling was not without conditions attached. El-Zakzaky and Zeenat must not go to any other hospital other than the one they specifically requested. Also, the travel of the Shiites’ leader and his wife must be under the strict supervision of the state officials. The leader of the IMN, whose members are also known as Shiites and his wife were absent from court during the ruling by Justice Darius Khobo yesterday.
Both El-Zakzaky and Zeenat were granted permission to travel for medical treatment following injuries they sustained during the clash of the IMN’s members with the Nigerian Army on December 15, 2015. During court proceedings, last week, the lead counsel to El-Zakzaky, Femi Falana (SAN), had argued that his client had to travel to India to extract pellets lodged in his body since 2015. But the prosecuting counsel, who is also the Kaduna State Director of Public Prosecution, Dari Bayero, opposed the prayer to travel to a foreign country, saying that the medical case could be handled locally.
However, yesterday, the court granted El-Zakzaky and his wife permission to travel to the Indian hospital for their treatment and return to the country after discharge to continue with their trial. Speaking to journalists shortly after the ruling, the prosecution counsel, Bayero said that he and his team would study the court’s decision before taking any further action. “The context of the court ruling is that Sheikh El-Zakzaky and his wife are granted leave to travel out for urgent medical attention,” he said.
According to Bayero, the court looked into the medical reports filed by the Shiites leader and wife and discovered that the IMN leader was indeed in dire need of medical attention. “This is not a bail, but leave to travel,” he said. When asked how long it would take, the prosecuting counsel said: “Once he (El-Zakzaky is discharged by the hospital he is referred to. So, as soon as he returns to the country, his trial will resume. The court has ruled and we are bound by the ruling.”
On whether El-Zakzaky has a choice to go to any other hospital for the treatment apart from the one in India, Bayero said: “I specifically choose to go to the hospital in India.” When further asked whether the state would appeal the ruling, the prosecuting counsel added: “We will go and sit down and study the ruling and explore whether there is the need for us to do that (appeal). We have a month to go through that.”
In his comment, one of the lawyers to El-Zakzaky, Marshal Abubakar, recalled that “before 29th of July, the lead counsel to the applicant, Femi Falana was in this court before Justice Darius of the Kaduna High Court to move the application. Subsequently, from that, the application was adjourned until today.” Abubakar also clarified that the application filed by Falana was not a bail application as being wrongly reported. “It is not a bail application as is being wrongly reported. It was an application to save the lives of the applicants, El-Zakzaky and his wife,” he said.
On how soon El-Zakzaky can travel out, he said: “The ruling came up today and Justice Darius graciously agreed with Falana and the various medical reports that were attached to the applications. There were eight medical reports that clearly showed that the applicants were in dire need of medical treatment abroad. The court agreed that they should be allowed immediate treatment that they sought and with supervision.”
For the period that the court sat yesterday, security was tight in the Kaduna metropolis. The roads leading to the court premises were blocked by the police and other security agents. The journalists who besieged the court for the coverage of the proceedings were barred from gaining entrance into the premises. They (journalists) stayed some metres away from the court. The state police command had assured the residents of Kaduna of adequate protection during and after court proceedings.
Also, the Kaduna State government had through its Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Samuel Aruwan, urged the residents to go about their normal business as their safety was guaranteed.
In his reaction, the leader of the IMN in the South West region, Muftau Zakariya, said that despite the travel leave granted to El-Zakzaky and his wife, Zeenat, the group would not relent until they regained their total freedom. According to him, while the group is still in the euphoria of the announcement, it has informed members and stakeholders on the need to meet to discuss its next line of action.
Zakariya told The Guardian that the IMN was not satisfied as the court had only granted a leave of travel for medical treatment and not a bail as demanded. “What we are asking is that the government should obey the already existing court order and grant unconditional release of our leader. But this is half bread, which is better than none. Surely, the struggle is not over, we have informed all those concerned on the need to sit and chart our next line of action. We are law-abiding citizens and will continue to use legal means to ensure that our leader is freed from the torment of the Federal Government “We thank the Lagos State government, our Christian brothers and all other concerned Nigerians who have stood with us during the course of this struggle,” he said.